New battlefield centre to mark Jacobite victory at Prestonpans

The Jacobite victory at the Battle of Prestonpans during the 1745 rising is due to be celebrated at a new visitor centre which aims to become a major tourist draw for the area.

The Jacobite victory at the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans is due to be marked with a permanent visitor centre and tourist attraction - as well as Scotland's first statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie. PIC: Neil Hanna/JP Licence.

Dr Arran Johnston, director of Scottish Battlefields Trust, said it was now time for the Battle of Prestonpans to get the recognition it deserved following major investments in battlefields at Bannockburn and Culloden.

Detailed proposals for the ‘immersive visitor experience’ have been drawn up by SBT and The Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust.

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The centre, which could attract an estimated 100,000 visitors a year, will mark the first battle of the 1745 rising, which ended in a resounding success for the Jacobites and near destruction of the Government’s army in Scotland.

The attraction, which is likely to become home to Scotland’s first statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie, will celebrate the cultural legacy of Prestonpans, which is immortalised in song, poetry and art, and aims to become a centre of excellence for Jacobite studies.

The Prestonpans Tapestry, which was stitched by 200 volunteers locally to tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s journey to East Lothian via France and the Highlands, will also be permanently housed here.

Dr Arran Johnston, director of Scottish Battlefields Trust, said: “We have long felt that Prestonpans has a real asset in this battlefield.

“This is an internationally famous battle that was hugely significant in Scottish history. It is a story deserves to be told well.

“The battles of Culloden and Bannockburn have both benefited from considerable investment, creating visitor attractions which both serve the heritage and act as economic drivers for their areas.

“We believe Prestonpans should be next.”

Both trusts have worked for several years to improve the information of the historic encounter at the Prestonpans battlefield.

Hundreds of soldiers were killed and over a thousand prisoners taken with the rapid defeat of the Government force demonstrating the effectiveness of the Highland charge in the face of the well-equipped Government troops.

The victory energised the Jacobite cause, boosting recruitment in the following months and ultimately giving their army the confidence to march into England in November 1745.

The remnants of the battlefield has been partly developed by housing and sits in a built-up environment close to the old Cockenzie power station and a proposed new town of Blindswells near Tranent.

Dr Johnston said: “Unlike Culloden, the battlefield sits in a former industrial area and is crossed by railway lines and electricity lines but that is not to deflect from some very peaceful and interesting areas.

“The experience of visiting the site is very different to visiting Culloden and perhaps you have to work a little harder to understand this aspect of the 1745.

“That is why having an immersive visitor experience would be such a major asset.”

The Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust earlier won Heritage Lottery funding to investigate the viability of the centre and has now launched a major consultation - Vision for Victory - on its ideas.

Several options for the centre’s location are under consideration, including a site on the edge of the battlefield. It could also be built further away with a large, extending viewpoint to take visitors closer to the scene of the action.

The trust believes that the centre’s close proximity to Edinburgh and the international interest in Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites will all help to support its success.

Fundraising is due to start next year.

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